Occupy Raleigh asks council to end ATM fees at City Hall

ccampbell@newsobserver.comAugust 6, 2013 

— Occupy Raleigh is taking aim at ATM fees charged to City Hall visitors seeking cash to pay their bills.

The group, known for the months its members camped out at the State Capitol, asked the Raleigh City Council Tuesday night to end fees at the Wells Fargo ATM inside City Hall.

Mark Swallow, a spokesman for the group, estimated that the bank is earning $30,000 in annual profits from the machine. “It’s not benefitting the City of Raleigh, and it’s certainly not benefitting your constituents,” he said.

Swallow said the group recently handed out flyers near the ATM, letting customers know where no-fee machines are located nearby. Some ATM users, he said, were elderly people who don’t feel comfortable carrying cash in public. Others could not afford to use checking accounts or credit cards to pay bills.

Swallow called on the city to replace the ATM with one from the State Employees’ Credit Union, which doesn’t charge fees. “Local community banks and credit unions offer advantages for our community,” he said.

Interim City Manager Perry James said the City Hall machine charges $1 per transaction – less than the $3 fees at other Wells Fargo locations.

“We certainly appreciate the sentiment,” he told Occupy members. “We believe that we should get the cheapest amount, and we try our best to do that.”

With few transactions, James said the machine operates at a loss for Wells Fargo. When the city sought bids for the service in 2011, credit unions and other banks declined to participate.

The council didn’t take action on the Occupy request, but Councilman Russ Stephenson suggested signage letting users know their options. “We could put a note up that if you want to walk X blocks” there’s an ATM without fees, he said.

Occupy Raleigh, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, has had a lower profile since ending its round-the-clock downtown encampment last year. Its members say they haven’t stopped fighting for social and economic change.

This marks the second time this year that members of Occupy Raleigh have petitioned the city council. In April, they asked Raleigh leaders to loosen its panhandling regulations in an effort to “decriminalize poverty.” A council committee, however, decided to leave the current rules unchanged.

Campbell: 919-829-4802

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